Advice for starting my glassing setup from the ground up

schiffer99

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Apr 12, 2022
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Tucson, AZ.
After some years of hunting with an old pair of Leupold green rings on my chest and 15x kaibabs on a vortex GT tripod, I've sold them off and want to build a new glassing setup from the ground up. I've always been the opposite of a glass snob and thought spending money for alpha glass was silly; then I was required to get a Leupold MK5 for a scoped carbine course. Oh... turns out maybe I was the one who was silly.

I live in Arizona and will be doing deer/elk hunting in Arizona and New Mexico, with future plans for antelope in one of the northern states like Idaho.

My budget is 3,000 ish and I am thinking I will get small glass (binocs on my chest) and large glass (either a 15 set of bincos or a spotter.) Having trouble deciding for small glass whether I would be better with 10x42 or 8x42, both have positive/negatives, though I am leaning 10x in case I ever end up with a hunt where I can't bring big glass. I was also leaning 15x (or maybe 18x in the Vortex UHD's) over a spotter, but I have also never spent time with a spotter so I could be missing out.

I've been to sportsman's wharehouse and checked out a couple different levels of glass. The Swaro EL's and the Zeiss victory (especially the Victory) stood out as the best to my eye. The vortex UHD's weren't as good, but I liked them better than the leica trinovids. I would go with the victory's for my small glass, but they dang near eat up my entire budget, so wondering if maybe I should settle on the conquests. (Side question, if my eye prefers a certain brand, will that carry over to the rest of their line? So if my eyes like zeiss, would like their glass better than the equivalent level glass from other manufactureres?)

Here is what I've been looking at for small glass: Zeiss victory, conquest, Vortex UHD, Swaro SLC's or EL's (haven't actually seen the SLC's but I assume they are similar to the EL's? Also, I really like the look of the Khales Helia S, but I think that might just be wanting something unique), Vortex UHD's, Leupold BX5. I hear good things about Leica, but I was not impressed with the trinovid and I've haven't been able to get my hands on a set of ultravid or geovids.

For big glass: front runner is 15x56 SLC's--though again that puts a hurt on the budget, 18x56 Vortex UHD's, 15x56 Zeiss conquest (have not been able to see these in person yet), Vortex Razor spotter, Leupold BX5 spotter, Kowa compact spotter.

Any thoughts, suggestions or experience is really appreciated. I am new to this so the more education I can get the better; including advice like just blow my entire budget on the Vitory's and then save up for a spotter/15x when I can. I did buy a refurbished Vortex carbon tripod that is incoming, just need to decide what I will be putting on top of it.
 

Hoodie

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The Maven B5 18x56 is another option to consider. I doubt the Razor UHD is worth the extra cost given that the same manufacturer makes both.

For chest binoculars I'd add the Maven B6 10x50 (which is as light as many 10x42) and the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 to the list.

I would not spend the entire budget on a $3k 10x42. If you put a dude with a Victory SF 10x42 on the same hill as a dude with a $1k 10x42 and a good set of 15x/18x the dude with two optics is going to find more animals. I personally think 8x42 pairs best with 15x56, and 10x pairs best with 18x.

Good luck with finding a setup that works for you.
 

Hatchet Jack

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For a couple years I packed 10x42 Leica and 15x56 meopta with a kowa 664 spotter, mostly hunting coues and black bears in AZ. I eventually got sick of packing 2 pairs of binos and went with 12x50 ELs and haven't looked back. They have a great FOV to do the closer stuff well with enough magnification and clarity for some longer range glassing. I've compared them in the field several times for hours on end with the Swarovski 15x56 and I just liked the ELs more. Used ELs for $2k and kowa 66 spotter for $800 - $900 and you're set. I've owned or used just about everything and this would be the ticket in IMO.
 

Ucsdryder

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SF10x42 are about the bast bang for your buck in the classifieds. I see them in the 1600-1800 often. Save up and add a kowa spotter and you’ll go from beginner to the envy of all the flat brimmers on the hillside instantly!
 

E Butler

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Feb 12, 2015
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If you start out with a used pair of alpha glass like the Swarovski,Leica,Zeiss in the 10x42 and a small light weight spotter you will not ever think you will need to upgrade. This set up for packing around in your pack and only using the spotter to determine if you want to go after something a long way away. If you’re glassing from your truck you can go big. I am running the Leica Noctivids and a Leica apo 65 and can not ask for anything else. I can say I did like my little Nikon 50 mm spotter that I had for its Light weight.
 

MJB

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Jun 18, 2020
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San Diego
10x42 buy the best you can these will be used all the time. 8's will leave you short.

Scrap the spotter go for 15 or 18 binos 50 or 56
 

nphunter

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If it were me I'd do some 8.5 x 42 EL's used and one of the two Meopta S2 spotters that are on eBay. The S2 is an Alpha spotter and the 8.5 EL will be a great binocular, good field of view easy to handhold. You could also pick up 10X EL’s but I’d personally do the 8.5’s, they will be my next purchase.

I would rather have a good spotter than 15X binos if it were me. I love my Meostar 15’s but if I had to keep one I would keep my spotter over the 15’s.
 
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schiffer99

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Tucson, AZ.
First, thank you everyone for your advice and thoughts. There has been a development as I am impulsive. I was on another website and came across a set of Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 for $1,500... so I pulled the trigger. Hoping I won't be wanting for the 10x, but I thought the price was too good to pass up.

Now, onto the decision for big glass.
 

nphunter

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First, thank you everyone for your advice and thoughts. There has been a development as I am impulsive. I was on another website and came across a set of Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 for $1,500... so I pulled the trigger. Hoping I won't be wanting for the 10x, but I thought the price was too good to pass up.

Now, onto the decision for big glass.
Here you go, you won’t find a better spotter for anywhere near that price.

It sounds like you’ve had 15’s so it really just depends on wether or not you want to go that route or a spotter. You can get a pair of 18X refurbed Razor’s for about the same price as Meoptas or Swaro used binos, the Swaro and Meostars are tried and true not a lot of info out on the 18 Razors.

 
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Matt G.

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Aug 17, 2017
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Nice find with the Zeiss. I would get a good tripod to compliment the bino s.

Sent from my SM-G981U using Tapatalk
 

Schaaf

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I’ve never been able to justify the price difference between the Meostar 15’s and the SLC 15’s. If there’s a difference optically, I have yet to see it.
 

WI in the west

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If i had to do it all over again with a 3k budget to start id also go with 12x NL’s personally.

Now if you wanted a pretty slick well rounded setup and are happy with great optics that are a hair under alpha glass id buy all lightly ised optics. Those being a maven b2 in 9x, then the maven B5 in 18x. And to top it off buy one of those little kowa 55 series spotters. It would put you a hair over 3k and youd have a bad ass well rounded system that would way very close to binos and a big spotter.

I had the b2 (11x) i still have the 18xb5’s, but am looking to sell since the 12x nl’s make them a little redundant. And i had a vortex razor 85mm with it also but it was to big to want to carry all three all the time. Thats my two cents.
 
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